In 2017, “Antoinette ” Toni Harris broke barriers in Los Angeles by becoming the first woman to receive a four-year football scholarship. However, the story is only recently gaining media attention because of Black History Month this year.
“A coach told me nobody’s ever going to play you to be at the next level. In the end, you’ve got to push yourself. I’m going to focus on my goals,” Harris said via ESPN, according to sbnation.com.
Harris, a safety from Detroit, received the scholarship to Bethany College, an NAIA school in Kansas, in 2018. Her story is just now being publicized, according to sbnation.com.
“ People tell me like ‘oh it’s cool you play football… but you’ll never make it… and you shouldn’t be doing it.,” Harris said to CBS Los Angeles, according to sbnation.com.
Harris said she has a feminine style of clothing and persona, which leads her coaches to doubt her abilities and potential throughout her youth. In addition, she was kicked off one of her youth football teams because of her gender, according to sbnation.com.
“I have never had a girl on a football team in player capacity. However, if I see that they can handle the physical [aspect of the game, it’s okay]. I think is a good outlet for a lot of kids, [and]I think it challenges them,” assistant football coach Christopher Cordonier said.
Cordonier also said he believes challenges for women in sports stem from a belief in physical differences between genders, thus leading to fear of injury.
“She’s one of the strongest women I’ve seen,” Cordonier said. “It really makes me look inward. [In the future] I would love to see more female leads, and break the glass ceilings.”
“I feel like it empowers and [gives representation] for girls like me who love football,” senior Grace Rasher said.
Rasher,one of the managers of Timberland High School’s football team, saidHarris’s determination sets a great example for the many girls around the world that love football.
“That’s a great accomplishment,” senior NaVon Richmond said. “Anyone who works hard deserves a good outcome.”
Richmond has been playing football since his youth and said that the accomplishment is something needed for today’s modern world, considering the standards and stereotypes of society today.
For more information about Tony Harris’ story and her legacy, visit sbnation.com.